Before turning our car around to begin the long journey home, our Canadian East Eats trip had us heading to beautiful Prince Edward Island for three and half days. My wife Ali flew out to join us for the weekend, and we didn’t slow our pace down for her one bit. After coming across on the ferry from Nova Scotia we checked into our hotel The Great George. It is comprised of a number of pretty townhouses and buildings that line the historic street in front of Province House, birthplace of Confederation. The brightly coloured heritage wood buildings are beautifully decorated to give a legitimate look and feel to the entire experience of their location.
An afternoon social each day where guests congregate in the main building for tea and cookies, is a wonderful touch to the elegant feel of the hotel. For dinner we walked over to Victoria Row, a pedestrian-only portion of the neighbourhood which is bubbling with tourists and locals visiting its pubs, restaurants, gift shops and cafes. Very often Jazz musicians will set up and perform along the cobblestone street.
After breakfast at The Great George we made our way to Victoria-By-The-Sea, one of the most picturesque places we’ve been so far on our journey. This village of about 100 residents is a throw-back to a bygone era. We got a chance to watch their annual croquet tournament and stroll the streets, exploring the beach-front, store-fronts and farmers’ market.
We spent a delightful morning with Emma and Linda Gilbert at Island Chocolates. Located in a restored General Store, this marvelous shop is filled with chocolate of all shapes and sizes.. but we were not there to window-shop. We were there to get our hands dirty (literally). The kids learned all about chocolate making and got a chance to make their own chocolate bowls, peanut clusters and vanilla filled truffles. Elbow deep in chocolate is definitely a great way to keep kids quite entertained for a morning!
For lunch we ate just down the road at the Landmark Cafe. Both the decor and the menu are an eclectic blur of East-meets-West. At the end of the day, the cafe doesn’t care where a specific type of food originates, if it’s delicious it can appear on their menu. European meat pies, Indian chicken, bagels with lox and cream cheese… It’s all fair game at the Landmark Cafe, and deliciously so.
In the afternoon we drove out to meet Ron Perry for a once-in-a-lifetime experience: clam digging! The best place to find clams is where fresh and salt water meet. So Ron had us out in Summerside, PEI during low tide as we searched for holes indicative of soft-shelled clams. As you dig to find them, the clams retreat into their shells, squirting salt water up into the air. As you can guess, this was an absolute riot for the kids – and we spent hours with shovels digging up the beach from one end to the other.
The next morning started off with a walk down historic Great George Street with one of the Confederation Players. We learned some of the history of the capital city and the important role it played in Canada’s Confederation.
We by-passed lunch in favour of a tour of the famous Cows Creamery Ice Cream Factory. A decision our dentist may not have agreed with, but delicious none-the-less. Just about every person we met East of Quebec who we told about our trip insisted we MUST stop at Cows for a tour. Using local milk, and whipping less air into their ice cream than some conglomerate ice cream makers, they truly do make some of the most delicious frozen treats you’ll ever taste. I had a giant helping of PEI Blueberry while the kids opted for waffle cones filled with the chocolate and caramel variety.
We then drove out to the far east end of the island for dinner at the popular Inn at Bay Fortune. Made famous by Michael Smith and his TV program “The Inn Chef”, the inn is known for its use of fresh island products, many of which it grows on site in their incredible garden. Chef Domenic Serio gave us a personal tour through row upon row of edible flowers, vegetables and fruits to explain all of the fresh produce available to him and his kitchen. Menus are developed daily and make use of whatever may be in season or ripe at any given time. Dining at the inn was an amazing opportunity for our family. Knowing that you are eating food which was literally picked moments before it was put on your plate was quite an eye-opening experience for the kids.
After dinner I made a point of visiting The Myriad View Artisan Distillery. When I met Chef Michael Smith last year he spoke so highly of his friend the doctor who makes traditional PEI island moonshine (a result of forty-seven years of prohibition). Myriad produces a number of hand-made, artisan spirits, and were quite happy to show off their distillery. A fun stop that I certainly got more out of than the kids did!
Our last morning on Prince Edward Island was spent at Holland College and the Culinary Institute of Canada, where we took part in a Culinary Boot Camp. Chef Joerg Solterman walked the kids and me through a number of delicious collaborations. We made grilled cheese with apple jelly, thai lettuce wraps and a mouth-watering sweet potato cream soup served with a blackened halibut. This was really one of the highlights of our trip so far. Obviously cooking is a passion of mine, it was wonderful to get some tips from the talented chef. He also did a fantastic job involving the kids into the morning’s activities. We had such a blast cooking, plating and eating our delicious creations!
Overall, our time in PEI was magnificent. The beauty of the island is only eclipsed by the wonderful people who inhabit it. I would go back with the kids in a heartbeat. Hopefully you get to make your way over to experience PEI for yourselves.
For my PEI inspired recipe… check out the delicious Sweet Potato Soup we made on our visit.